The UAB Blazers managed to rebound over losses to UTEP and Memphis with a solid win over conference opponent Rice this past weekend. The losses certainly hurt UAB's No. 25 ranking, but the Blazers are still receiving votes in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. With straight wins it is conceivable that they could be back in the Top 25 before they play either Memphis or UTEP again.
The Top 25 is not, however, what UAB should concern themselves with at the moment. Conference USA is a vastly different league this year than it has been in the past several seasons. Their catchphrase “Competition Lives Here” is actually true this basketball season. The top spot in C-USA is still up for grabs by anyone with the grit to take it. UTEP, UAB, Tulsa, and Memphis are all still in the mix, with Marshall still being a threat as well.
UTEP sits at 8-1, alone at the top for the moment, with very good conference wins over Memphis, UAB, and Tulsa. The 'big” games left for UTEP this regular season are:
- At SMU: Say what you will, but the Mustangs have proven to be pretty scary for UAB, and Memphis at home this season)
- At Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane will be looking to avenge the loss that kept them from being No.1 in the C-USA standings
- At Marshall: Marshall is a very talented team. They may have four conference losses, but don't think for a minute that they aren't tough to beat at home
- UAB: UAB does not like to lose at Bartow Arena. UTEP handed them their only home loss thus far this season, and you can expect UAB to head to El Paso with a bit of revenge on the mind.
UAB is in at No. 2 with a 7-2 record. Losses to UTEP and Memphis. The home loss to UTEP really stunned the Blazers, and they will be looking to avenge it at the end of the regular season. A tie-breaker win over Tulsa technically keeps them ahead of the Golden Hurricane despite the identical record. “Big” games left for UAB are:
- Marshall: UAB beat Marshall at home, and Marshall is a very good team. Don't be surprised if this game ends up a close one. UAB has to win this one to stay safe in the running.
- At Southern Miss: This is a bit of a rivalry and for the most part, Southern Miss can play UAB too close for comfort. The Golden Eagles also just got a win at Houston.
- Memphis: It is time for UAB to break their losing streak to the Tigers. They couldn't do it at the FedEx Forum so look for this to be a very exciting and imporant home game for UAB.
- At UTEP: They ruined the chance for UAB to be undefeated at home this year, and if they are still on top at the end of the regular season, look for UAB to really want this one. UTEP better watch out.
Tulsa has the same record as UAB. An extra win is necessary to slip past the Blazers since they do not play again and UAB defeated Tulsa. They have a good win over Marshall, but also lost to UTEP. “Big” games:
- Memphis: a win over the Tigers is still a big deal, and the Memphis is still just as much in the running for the top spot as anyone else.
- At Marshall: This will be a tough one for Tulsa. Marshall will be wanting to pull their record back within striking distance, and a win would prevent Tulsa from having a tie-breaker over them.
- UTEP: As said earlier, Tulsa will be out for revenge since they got beaten pretty handily by the Miners on national TV.
- At Duke: Not a conference game, but an improbable win would be a major statement to the selection committee come tournament time.
- At Memphis: We will have to see how the first Memphis game for Tulsa plays out, but either way, it is always hard to beat Memphis in Memphis.
Memphis is 6-2. One more conference win would tie them for second place and they do have a win over UAB. If they beat Tulsa, they will have tie-breakers over both until later this season when both teams get an extra shot at the Tigers. “Big” games for Memphis are:
- At Tulsa: The first of two meetings between the two schools.
- SMU: Normally, not a big deal. This year, SMU got a big upset win over Memphis down in Dallas. Don't be surprised if Memphis manages to run away from them this time.
- At UAB: This will be a tough one for Memphis to win. If UAB stays good, then the atmosphere at Bartow Arena will be pretty crazy. Add a very good UAB team out to snap the Memphis streak and finish first in C-USA, and you have a scary game if you wear blue and white.
- Tulsa: The last game of the regular season for Memphis may be a deciding one depending on how the season plays out for the rest of the top teams.
These are the games that at the moment, look to be the most important for each school. The way C-USA is playing out this year however, an upset or two for a lower team is not out of the question. After all, SMU did it over Memphis. Depending on who the upset was to happen to, it could be pretty devastating as far as seeding goes for the conference tournament. Marshall has four losses, and some wins over UAB and Tulsa could put them right back in it. Southern Miss also has only four losses, but it is not as likely they could make a big run this season.
Whoever ends up winning it all this year, you can bet it will have been the most entertaining and interesting season that Conference USA has had since the restructuring. It already has been.
For complete schedules and dates, click on the highlighted school names within the article. For the the complete C-USA standings, check out the official C-USA website here.
UAB plays Marshall this Saturday at Bartow Arena. The game will be at 7 p.m. Central.